Sunday, February 1, 2009

How can understanding demographics help us better understand teaching and learning?

I believe that understanding communities’ demographics is very helpful for us as educators.  Sometimes educators just pass of a student as a “lost cause” or someone who “will never learn.”  We have to look past these assumptions and stereotypes and take up the challenge of finding ways of teaching that will get through to these students.  The demographics allow us to take up this challenge and, at the same time, view different aspects of our students’ lives that are not always available by conversations with them or their parents.  For example, a student might come from a household that does not greatly care about education because both parents did not graduate from high school.  The student might not care about going to school and may be confrontational when you approach to have a conversation about it.  If you knew the demographics of his neighborhood, then you would probably see that a high percentage of adults dropped out of school.  This would help you take a different approach to teaching the student and allow you to try and enforce some enthusiasm towards his/her education.

Understanding demographics also assist us in building a lesson plan that will get relevant information across to the students.  Since I am a Health and Physical Education major, I would be very intrigued to look over the demographics in the community in order to teach subjects that are strongly affecting my students.  If I were to teach in Newark, in my Sexual Education class, my main focal point would be “AIDS Prevention” because Newark “has the highest AIDS caseload, at 8,021, of New Jersey cities” (Sidney, 2003).  Unfortunately Newark’s sexual education programs are funded by the governments Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage programs so it will difficult for me to properly educate students on the proper ways to prevent the spread of AIDS.  But it is still very important to understand the demographics of the community you teach in because you will be able to positively affect it by educating the students in topics that are currently affecting them and their community.         

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